How you can celebrate the hungry ghost festival with kids

PHOTO: Twitter

We're now in the seventh month of the year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. This means it's also time for the Hungry Ghost Festival. As the seventh lunar month is known as the Ghost Month or qi yue in Chinese tradition, the festival involves appeasing the spirits with offerings.

While it is a peaceful celebration, some children might feel too spooked to hear that 'ghosts' will be roaming around the street. So to enjoy the festivities and fun, don't keep them in the dark about the celebration. Instead let them know what this festival is all about.  

Here's how you can explain the traditional festival to the kids so they can freely join in on the celebrations!

Explaining the Hungry Ghost Festival to the kids

While other parts of the world have Halloween, the Chinese have the Hungry Ghost Festival to honour the dearly departed. The Hungry Ghost Festival, or Zhong Yuan Jie in Chinese, has its roots in both Buddhism and Taoism. 

According to Chinese traditions, the souls of the dead are believed to roam the earth during the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It is believed that if these spirits are ignored during the festival, they could get up to mischief.

This is why during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, offerings are prepared to appease them. If your little one is confused about the rows of candles and food outside in your neighbourhood, explain to them that these are all to satisfy the ghosts' appetites. 

For this year, the Hungry Ghost Festival will be from Aug 8 to Sept 6, 2021. Ghost Day will then be on Sunday (Aug 22).  

The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations

During the festival, people will burn offerings in special metal cages that are placed outside residential areas and temples. The belief is that whatever they burn, the departed loved ones can use them in the afterlife. 

This is why they burn items such as paper money and incense candles. They also burn elaborate paper creations of houses, cars, watches, jewellery and any other material needs that deceased family members can use in the afterlife. 


The food is also important to place as offerings and are often displayed in either proper alters or just tucked neatly at the side of footpaths or trees. Preparing such offerings is even believed to bring good luck to families in return. 

Aside from the offerings, kids may also be excited to see performances during the festivities. These Chinese operas and puppet performances nursing with colour are must-see during the festival. But do remind the kids that the front seats are always left empty for the ghosts who are watching. 

While you might have gotten to see them in person before the pandemic, restrictions have put live performances on hold for this year as well.

But you can still catch performances livestreamed on social media to watch on the day of the festival. 

Enjoy and stay safe! 

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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